conservative RCA churches shifting to PCA

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Calvinbeza

Puritan Board Freshman
As many of you know University Reformed Church in Lansing will join the PCA, and another in Bloomington MN (Riverside Reformed Church) will do the same. I am personally happy about it , and I think they made a good decision, but there are other Reformed conservative denomination like the United Reformed Churches in North America, etc. former RCA churches must subscribe the Three Forms of Unity as well as the PCA official standard the Westminster Confession. What makes PCA a good choice for them? As mentioned they were other conservative denominations. What was the reason to join PCA?
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
Why the PCA for these RCA congregations?

That's a big question. First of all, one might think about what life in the RCA for them was like earlier and what it had become. Life earlier in the RCA for these congregations (the ones now becoming PCA) had been such that they were largely left to operate as they saw fit with respect to a whole range of issues, even though they were clearly more confessional and conservative than the administrative offices of the church with respect to these issues. The RCA has been for some time fairly loose in its centralized governance. What it had become in recent years, however, was more demanding with respect to all of its member churches, particularly regarding women in office and the like. In other words, greater conformity to certain liberalized positions has come to be required throughout the whole church. Conservative congregations are no longer being afforded the luxury of maintaining their conservatism and not having to "tow the line" put forth by the church's leadership. So it has become evident to these departing congregations that they would not be able to resist the liberal demands any longer.

Where to go? What would be ideal for them would be another Reformed body that would permit them to be confessionally Reformed but with a bit of a slack hand as they were accustomed to earlier in the RCA (before the demanding liberal hammer fell). Who would this be? What body in NAPARC qualifies? It would not be the URCNA, as that would be perceived by most of them as narrower than they would want (whether rightly or wrongly perceived is another matter and a rather complicated one). Still, then, to which NAPARC body should they go? I'll not proceed through all the NAPARC bodies in turn, but they perceived that the body that would be Reformed in doctrine (and allow them to be so) and allow them the freedom that they want as congregations would be the PCA, which has a grass-roots feel to it and allows local churches considerable discretion.

Much more could be said about this, but it's probably not necessary for those who know the NAPARC bodies well and for those who don't it would require more than I am willing to say here.

Peace,
Alan
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
While I think Prof. Strange has dealt well and fairly with the issues, I would also postulate size might have been a factor. The PCA is about the same size as the RCA (slightly larger) and has denominational resources that might not be readily available from smaller bodies.
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
I agree, Edward. I think that the smaller size not only impacts the denominational resources situation but also the comfortability question as well. Bodies like the URC and OPC are not only smaller but tend to be more closely knit in a way that I suspect these congregations (all of which are a reasonable size themselves) might not feel quite as comfortable in.

To the oft-raised question, "but how do they so blithely go from the TFU to the WS?": the particular churches may differ in how closely the held to the TFU (certainly not required to hold closely to it by the RCA) and will not be held to some close confessional standards in the PCA. In this way, the transition, though from one major strain of the Reformed faith to another, is less drastic than if they went into something like the URC.

Peace,
Alan
 

Calvinbeza

Puritan Board Freshman
And the Dutch heritage? The PCA separated from Southern Presbyterian Church. 2/3 of the PCA churches are in the South. In the Midwest the PCA is less strong
 

Calvinbeza

Puritan Board Freshman
The RCA has 240,000 total membership, the PCA has 367,000 the difference is 120,000. I would not say the " RCA and PCA has the same sise"
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
What church is the closest size to the RCA in NAPARC? The PCA, though it is now larger (it's grown a good deal and the RCA has shrunk). None of the other churches in NAPARC are comparable.

As far as Dutch heritage, the RCA has been rather thoroughly "Americanized" in its ethos for some time, this being one of the reasons for the beginning of the CRC in 1857 (the CRC itself being larger now than the RCA, though no longer in NAPARC and not in consideration for these RCA "departing" congregations). So for these departing RCA congregations the "Dutch" heritage simply plays little role in their decision-making. The biggest adjustment will be to the Westminster Standards. But all concerned know that the PCA will be light-handed with respect to this.

Peace,
Alan
 

Wayne

Tempus faciendi, Domine.
For the PCA the geographical weight is slow shifting to a more truly national denomination. As of 2014, the Southern states had more like 60% versus roughly 40% throughout the rest of the nation. A small step back from 2/3 (66%), but indicative, nonetheless.
 

Calvinbeza

Puritan Board Freshman
Mr Wayne
I think the PCA does care about church planting in the West a nd Midwest. Does the PCA neglect church planting in the South(Mississippi, and Alabama) where many its founding churches came? In Mississippi there are few PCA church plants, copared to the other parts of the nation. Would be this situation change?
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
but how do they so blithely go from the TFU to the WS

I'd start with: only the officers have to subscribe. So members are free to continue with the familiar as they wish. Including in worship. Indeed, I know of a PCA church with no continental background or ties where the Heidelberg Catechism might be used more frequently to confess in congregational worship than is Westminster.

And as perhaps suggested by your comment, the very thing that we complain about from time to time here on PB - the looseness of subscriptional standards in the PCA - would make the transition easier to this denomination than it would be to a more strict subscriptionalist denomination.
 

Wayne

Tempus faciendi, Domine.
Gabor

Certainly the PCA a cares about planting churches throughout the nation, including the South. There are in fact a few new plants in both Alabama and Mississippi (more in AL).
 

Calvinbeza

Puritan Board Freshman
Ther are relatively few PCA churches in Jackson, MS. Have the PCA intention of planting there? I heard a PCA the church planting effort in Port Gibson, MS. Do you know more about that?
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
In Mississippi there are few PCA church plants, copared to the other parts of the nation.

You might wish to seek a better example to make your point. The PCA is the major Presbyterian denomination in Mississippi, and has been for several decades. It was the rare PCUS church north of I-10 that did not pull out to join the PCA early on. And of the few PCUSA churches left, some have since moved to EPC.

There are very few opportunities for church planting in Mississippi - probably the Memphis suburbs would be the best bet, although the area is already pretty well served (Olive Branch, Horn Lake and Hernando) . As for planting Black churches - a laudable goal, but one should not expect early success (not to mention the limited supply of available church planters).

A dynamic population certainly eases church planting. The northern suburbs of Dallas could probably support a church plant a year without cannibalizing existing churches. Same for suburban Houston (South Texas) and for Phoenix (Southwest) except 2008-12.

North Texas Presbytery has gone from about 13 churches and missions in 1990 to about 54 today (that includes a half dozen or so from a couple of defunct presbyteries and one from the CRC). Can you identify 40 locations for a successful church plant in any of the Mississippi presbyteries?
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
Ther are relatively few PCA churches in Jackson, MS

? There are 21 PCA churches in the greater Jackson area serving a metro area of about a half million people. If you are speaking of relative in terms of Baptist churches, you may have a point. If you are speaking of relative to other cities, bring on some specific examples.
 

Calvinbeza

Puritan Board Freshman
As you mentioned the suburban Memphis area, Jackson, I think there are no PCA churches in New Albany, Senatobia, Amory, Holly Springs in the Northern MS, Florence(suburban Jackson), Pascagoula, Wiggins, and in the Gulfport suburbs.

Which church came from the CRC to the PCA in your presbytery?
 

Calvinbeza

Puritan Board Freshman
I think there are only 3 PCA churches (First Pres, Redeemer, Trinity) serving downtown Jackson. It should have minimum 10 I think included black and hispanic PCA churches as well
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
I think there are only 3 PCA churches (First Pres, Redeemer, Trinity) serving downtown Jackson. It should have minimum 10 I think included black and hispanic PCA churches as well
In the Jackson metro area, there are also Pear Orchard, Pinehaven, Providence, Pearl, Highlands, and others. Compare that to a place like Houston (nearly ten times the size), or Detroit, or Cleveland, or Columbus, or Milwaukee, and you will see your example is not well placed.
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
One should also mention that we tend to move to where our connections are. At least with University Reformed Church, it is likely that they had more personal friendships in the PCA than in other denominations.
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
included black and hispanic PCA churches as well

I'm not sure how well Redeemer would be doing if it didn't have the white members that stayed behind when Trinity moved to the former Methodist church on Old Canton. As for Hispanics, you are talking about around 1% of the population. You can pretty much view Jackson in black and white.



To actually bring this digression back to the original points of this thread, I noticed one of the Jackson area churches was featuring a study of the Heidelberg

And now to digress again:


I would not say the " RCA and PCA has the same sise"

That's not exactly what I said. I qualified it with an 'about'. As Prof. Strange has pointed out, PCA is a good bit closer to RCA than are the other NAPARC churches.

Which church came from the CRC to the PCA in your presbytery?

Bethel, formerly Bethel Christian Reformed Church, now Bethel Church PCA.
 

DMcFadden

Puritanboard Commissioner
The focus on differences in confessional subscription, while important, overlooks some of the sociological factors in play.

* Churches leaving a liberal denomination may either go independent, form a new denomination, or affiliate with a body perceived to be a good "fit." "Independent" is not a suitable move for a Reformed congregation and separating piecemeal does not incline towards forming a new denomination. That leaves the option of joining with an existing group.

* Some of the smaller Reformed bodies and the micro-denoms tend to be sociologically insular. The pastors of the newly affiliating congregations would probably feel like outsiders for the rest of their ministries. They may even be treated such. Since pastors are key players in most denominational changes, it is unlikely that they would want to unite with a group where their gifts would be marginalized and they would be treated as some kind of interloper.

* Fellowship among pastors and congregations is MUCH easier when it does not involve crossing state lines and visiting airports. The PCA is NOT a large body, but it does have churches in MN that would make for fellowship opportunities. Many of the smaller Reformed bodies have sparse representations of congregations and that works against regular fellowship contacts.

* Culture and size are more important than you might imagine. Going from a denomination the size of the RCA to anything else will be a culture shock. Whether you like them or not, the denomination provides a variety of services to the congregation that a micro-denomination simply cannot offer. This will add to the strain of changing. Trying to go from an established denomination to a much smaller body would only exacerbate those adjustment pains.

* I'm not a Presbyterian, but have spent time studying the Westminster Standards. Many of my staunch Westminster Standards friends have a great deal of affection for the TFU, particularly the Heidelberg Catechism. One of my good friends began seminary in the Westminster camp and is now pastoring in a TFU denomination. Is the shift here more significant than the cultural differences between denominations?
 
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Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
I know of a PCA church with no continental background or ties where the Heidelberg Catechism might be used more frequently to confess in congregational worship than is Westminster.

I know more than one PCA church that has used the Heidelberg in worship but not the Westminster. It's because the Heidelberg is seen as having more warmth and therefore a more worshipful tone. The Westminster is seen as more suitable for study. I think it's great to be able to use both without anyone getting huffy over it, and I wouldn't be surprised if several PCA churches do this. This kind of freedom is part of the reason the PCA is a good fit for a conservative church coming out of the RCA or CRC.
 

Calvinbeza

Puritan Board Freshman
Dear Edward

There are just few entire CRC congregations joined the PCA. I bet Bethel joined in the first half of the 1990s. I know only Monsey Christian Church (formerly Monsey CRC) in Monsey New York. Do you know more?
 

Calvinbeza

Puritan Board Freshman
Fellowship among pastors and congregations is MUCH easier when it does not involve crossing state lines and visiting airports. The PCA is NOT a large body, but it does have churches in MN that would make for fellowship opportunities. Many of the smaller Reformed bodies have sparse representations of congregations and that works against regular fellowship contacts.

The Reformed Church in the United States have also congregations in MN. The RCA church in Bloomington could have gone to the RCUS.
 

Calvinbeza

Puritan Board Freshman
For example Peace Reformed Church in Michigan joined the EPC. Why? The PCA have congregations in Michigan too.
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
Gabor:

The RCUS is quite unlike so much of what these churches departing the RCA have known. They would not be considered by these churches as a candidate for the place to land.

Beyond the particulars, however, you seem unwilling to accept what we are all saying with respect to these departing churches entering the PCA. Why is that? What are you driving at with your continual comebacks here?

Peace,
Alan
 

Calvinbeza

Puritan Board Freshman
Mr. Strange

First I am thankful for your worthy answers. I really appreciate them. I understand and accept these reasons. I am happy about that these RCA churches join a confessional Reformed and Presbyterian denomination, the PCA. It is weird for me that churches in Dutch heritage want to united with a Southern Scottish-Irish background denomination. And Yes I understand now that the cultural differences are diminished.

Second I think when a PC(USA) church would affiliate with PCA that could be easier to understand for the people, because Presbyterian(PC(USA)-Presbyterian(PCA) same culture, similar name. I understand that the PC(USA) church differ far more theologically from the PCA than the University Ref Church, or former RCA churches in Chicago suburbs.

Third RCA(Three Forms of Unity)-PCA(Westminster Confession)- I understand the PCA allows much leeway to use the Heidelberg Cathecism and just adopt WCF formally.

Fourth RCA is ecumenical denomination (ELCA, UCC, World Communion of Reformed Churches, etc), the PCA is conservative (World Ref. Fellowship, National Association of Evangelicals)

Fifth RCA Seminaries versus Covenant Seminary
 

Alan D. Strange

Puritan Board Senior
Gabor:

The RCA, the PCA, and the churches departing the RCA for the PCA all have in common one thing that renders this move less weird sociologically than it may appear ecclesiastically (on paper) to be: none of them wish to be identified as "ethnic" or "culturally-captive" churches and are all moving away from their origins as Dutch and Southern Presbyterian. And the departing churches, and the PCA, have in common a desire to be confessionally Reformed but with leeway and liberty, particularly to be pastorally accomodating in a way that they believe best ministers to our current culture.

All this is to say, when you work through all the present realities, and not only how things appear on paper, but on the ground, you see that this move into the PCA for these departing RCA congregations makes a good deal of sense.

Peace,
Alan
 
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